UAVs will be flying fewer combat hours as military operations wind down. Pictured: The MQ-4C Triton. (ALAN RADECKI)
With the tempo of overseas operations winding down, so will UAV flight hours, say U.S. Army officials.
It took 20 years for Army UAVs to reach 1 million annual flight hours in 2010, but only a few more years to reach 2 million. Reaching the 3 million hour mark may take longer as operational tempo slows, said Army officials at a March 18 media roundtable at Redstone Arsenal, Ala.
As UAVs return to the U.S. from overseas, there will also be fewer opportunities to fly them because of restricted airspace. Neither there will be many new models of UAVs. "Our platforms are the platforms we're going to have for the foreseeable future in the Army," said UAS project manager Col. Timothy Baxter.
However, there will be improved payloads and better teaming of manned and unmanned platforms, said Col. Thomas von Eschenbach, UAS capability manager for Training and Doctrine Command. "We're on the tipping point of unmanned aerial systems' ability to deliver capability to the soldier," he said.
The Army is also moving away from relying on contractors to maintain UAVs in favor of in-house support, said Baxter.
UAVs will be part of the restructuring of Army aviation. Three Shadow UAV platoons will be put inside of each attack reconnaissance squadron, for a total of 30 Shadow platoons in the combat aviation brigades, von Eschenbach said.